In the mountain and valley rainforests of northeastern Queensland, Chowchillas (Orthonyx spaldingii) chatter at dawn and dusk, and occasionally during the day. Group members often sing sequentially, with the female singing the most. This ground-dwelling bird feeds among the leaf litter in these forests and only roosts in trees at night.
Despite being relatively weak in flight and whirring without maneuverability, the Chowchilla runs powerfully. In the Chowchilla population, there are usually a pair of adults and their young living together, but they may also live in a group with additional adults.
A group of foragers holds a foraging territory all year; when one member finds food insects such as beetles and their larvae, along with seeds, the others join in, scratching and rummaging together with sideways kicks. There is probably only one breeding season per year, but it can happen at any time.
There are several names for this bird, including Auctioneer Bird, Northern Chowchilla, and Northern Log-runner. Chowchilla’s measure between 280 and 300 mm in length, while females measure between 270 and 290 mm.
Male birds have a black head; the rest of the upper bodies are dusky olive. White underparts cover all parts of the body. Bare-tipped shafts with a fibrous tail. The eye is brown with a blue-white ring around it. Black is the color of the bill and feet. Female birds are cinnamon-brown on their throats and upper breasts.
An immature bird has dark brown overhead, back, and underparts flecked with cinnamon brown. There is a low, throaty grrrrr-grrrr-grrrrr and several ringing chucks in the contact calls of Chowchilla. A Chowchilla’s song, however, is chattering, resonant, repeated chow-chilla-chow-chow-chowry-chook-chook.
In most months except the wettest ones, nesting and breeding occur. Over one thousand sticks, some of them large, are arranged in a dome at the base of a tree or in a clump of vines or ferns just above the ground.
There is only one egg; it is white; oval, and about 37 x 27 mm. The female incubates and builds the nest. Between Mt Hilzfax near Townsville, Queensland, and Mt Cook near Cooktown, Queensland, Chowchilla can be found under upland and valley rainforests. So far, two endemic races have been identified.
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